So, once again, I’m reading statements from the Westerly School District about mold and water issues in an educational building. For those of you who might not have heard, the cafeteria at Dunn’s Corners School was closed last week out of what seems to be an “abundance of caution.” I cannot find any reports of an actual confirmed issue this time, but the district did recently release a statement saying that “… the deep cleaning performed over the holiday weekend, the running of extra dehumidifiers during this extreme humidity and the retesting of spaces at Dunn’s Corners School were all in order to ensure a healthy teaching and learning environment.”
This is becoming a yearly experience at Dunn’s Corners School. Not just mold issues, I admit. But general issues with the building design, largely revolving around the site and the use of the building’s basement for the cafeteria. And this isn’t limited to Dunn’s Corners School. With regular issues coming out about the quality of the “teaching and learning environment” at State Street School as well, I’m left wondering, why did the district elect to close two other school buildings in favor of these two inadequate ones? Why for over a decade did we get beat up with the notion that Tower Street School and Bradford School must be closed? Was it political more than economical? Especially when one of those two buildings, Tower Street School, is still in use almost a decade later as an educational facility?!? Bradford School — the building built all on one level, built on a hill that will likely never see water or drainage issues, the building in the district that was maintained so well — was closed in one quick vote held hastily at the insistence of a couple School Committee members and another quickly departed superintendent.
There are emotional feelings here. I won’t deny that my interest in seeing Bradford School stay open is, in part, due to my time in the building after the district had last shuttered it three decades ago. But now I own a home near the district’s newest elementary school, and I shouldn’t care about the rest of the district because I can trust that any issues my kids may have at school won’t be building-related. “I got mine.”
But I’m not here for my kids. I’m writing on behalf of a concerned citizenry, a quiet majority of us that loves our town because we grew up here. We don’t go to town meetings. We don’t get involved as we should. We don’t want to see change. We don’t like the political backroom deals that give us less say and higher taxes with fewer benefits. We hate the infighting and the “I’ve got mine, too bad for you” attitude being displayed by our elected leaders. We like political correctness, not because we are all “snowflakes,” but because we want to be polite and understanding of each other.
We are a community. We need to act like it. I want to know why Tower Street School is still open, I want to know why Bradford was closed to send students to Dunn’s Corners, putting more stress on a poorly designed building, and I guess I’m asking the community to start listening a bit harder and be a bit more involved.
Mark Doescher Jr.Westerly